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This Holiday Season Some Dream of a White Christmas - The Accelerated Cure Project Dreams of Developing a Cure for Multiple Sclerosis
Date:12/18/2007

WALTHAM, Mass., Dec. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Art Mellor is one of more than 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2 million worldwide suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS). It's, a debilitating disease that causes paralysis, blindness, incontinence and cognitive dysfunction among other symptoms. So it's no wonder that Mellor, the founder of the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis, is less interested in snow and more interested in raising the funds he needs to scratch "Develop a cure for MS" off his holiday to-do list.

Researchers who study Multiple Sclerosis have many theories about what causes it. Some believe it's the environment, some think it's genetic, others think it's viral. Mellor, who was diagnosed with MS seven years ago, believes it's a combination of factors, and most researchers agree that MS is indeed multifactorial. That's why his organization, the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis, a national nonprofit organization based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is offering researchers around the country a unique opportunity to unlock the combination.

The Accelerated Cure Project for MS is in the midst of a campaign to raise several million dollars to build and maintain the largest bio sample and data bank for Multiple Sclerosis (and other demyelinating diseases) research. Blood samples from the biobank will be provided to MS researchers at almost no cost - as long as they share their results with the Accelerated Cure Project. In return, Mellor's team will provide a continually updated data bank called the "Cure Map" that will correlate results from different research perspectives and highlight interactions between factors that can lead to the development of MS.

A Faster Route to the Cure

When Mellor was diagnosed with MS, he did what many people in his situation do; try to learn as much as possible about this mysterious disease. What he learned however wasn't encouraging. In studying the available literature on MS research he was disappointed to discover that most results were considered to be inconclusive because of the limited number of samples used in the research. Equally discouraging was his discovery that there was no mechanism in place that would enable researchers in different fields to cross- correlate the results of their findings

"As an engineer by training, it seemed clear to me that if you're looking at a disease that is caused by a combination of factors, we could expedite finding that combination by studying each factor using a common set of samples and then correlating the results," says Mellor.

To overcome the barrier of limited sample size, his organization is dedicated to collecting thousands of samples and making them available to researchers. To help connect the dots in the complex pattern of research results, his organization has created an interdisciplinary database that will help researchers uncover the most promising directions for future study, and thereby accelerate the cure by uncovering the causes.

According to Dr. Benjamin Greenberg, an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine for the Department of Neurology, "This is the most comprehensive approach to MS research to date. If this works, we might not only have a model for curing MS, but other multifactorial diseases."

A hypothetical example might involve a geneticist who wants to look for unique genetic markers that may predispose people the develop MS and a virologist who is looking for evidence of past infections as potential triggers for MS. The Accelerated Cure Project would provide a common set of samples from people with MS to each researcher and enter the results of their research into their database. Then they would use sophisticated data analysis techniques to search for patterns - such as a set of genes that coincide with a particular virus. Over time, discovery of patterns such as this would help to eliminate some potential causes and implicate others.

Building The Repository

Recognizing that researchers don't have the time or resources to collect enough samples that could be used in multiple studies, Mellor has made building the repository a top priority. And Mellor is not alone in his efforts. The following research centers across the country have joined Accelerated Cure Project as collection sites for the repository: Johns Hopkins Medical Center (Baltimore), University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center (Worcester), University of Texas Southwestern (Dallas), Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York (New York), Barrow Neurological Institute (Phoenix) and Shepherd Center (Atlanta).

Currently the repository is rapidly approaching its initial goal of 1,000 samples. The Accelerated Cure Project intends to continue collecting samples from as many as 10,000 subjects for its MS Repository. The repository is projected to become the largest openly accessible, multi-disciplinary collection of bio-samples, and related donor data ever assembled for use in Multiple Sclerosis research.

"What we need now more than anything are the funds to continue building our repository so that we can then accelerate the cure for Multiple Sclerosis by determining its causes," says Mellor.

And this is Mellor's only wish for the holiday season.

For more information about the Accelerated Cure Project or to make a corporate or individual donation, call 781/487-0008 or visit acceleratedcure.org. Checks may be made payable to the Accelerated Cure Project, 300 Fifth Avenue Waltham, MA 02451. All donations are tax deductible.


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SOURCE Accelerated Cure Project
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